ARIZONA NEWS

Judge rules Arizona Senate can get access to 2.1 million ballots

Feb 26, 2021, 10:19 AM | Updated: 3:54 pm

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX (AP) — A judge ruled Friday that the Arizona Senate can get access to 2.1 million ballots and election equipment from Arizona’s most populous county so it can audit results of the 2020 election that saw Democrat Joe Biden win in the state.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason’s decision comes after a protracted battled between the Republican-controlled state Senate and the GOP-dominated Maricopa County board over subpoenas issued by the Senate.

The five-member Board of Supervisors argued that the ballots were secret, that the Legislature had no right to access them and that the subpoenas issued by Senate President Karen Fann were for an illegitimate purpose, among other arguments.

The Senate’s lawyers contended that the constitution gives the Legislature the role of maintaining the purity of elections and make sure voter integrity is protected, that the subpoenas were legal and a proper use of legislative power.

In his ruling, Thomason agreed with the Senate on all those arguments, saying the subpoenas “are legal and enforceable.”

“There is no question that the Senators have the power to issue legislative subpoenas,” Thomason wrote. “The Subpoenas comply with the statutory requirements for legislative subpoenas. The Senate also has broad constitutional power to oversee elections.

“The Arizona legislature clearly has the power to investigate and examine election reform matters,” the ruling says. “The Subpoenas also do not violate separation of powers principles. Production of the subpoenaed materials would not violate confidentiality laws.”

The ruling appears to end a bitter fight that has divided two elected Republican-controlled bodies who became embroiled in a battle prompted by then-President Donald Trump’s loss in Arizona.

Board Chairman Jack Sellers said the ruling “brings clarity to whether Senate subpoenas apply to ballots that, per state law, must be kept private following an election; as well as the many other documents and equipment demanded.

“We respect his legal opinion and will immediately start working to provide the Arizona Senate with the ballots and other materials,” Sellers said in a statement after meeting with county lawyers. “These items are in addition to the more than 11GB of data already provided. We hope senators will show the same respect and care we have for the 2.1 million private ballots and use them in service of their legislative duties.”

Fann has said she wants the audit to prove one way or another whether the victory of President Joe Biden was legitimate. Court challenges in Arizona and other battleground states where former President Donald Trump lost found no evidence of fraud, miscounts or other problems.

Reached by phone while driving to her home in Prescott on Friday morning, Fann said she had not yet talked to Senate lawyers other than to be told she had won.

“We are thrilled and grateful that the judge was able to see the big picture in this whole issue,” she said. “That this has never been about overturning an election. This has always been 100% about voter integrity and finding the answers to all of our voters’ questions about the safety and security and validity of the Arizona electoral system.”

The county Board of Supervisors has pointed to repeated checks that show the election was free and fair and properly conducted. They also did two additional audits in an effort to mollify the Senate.

Early this week, they released the results of those new audits of their equipment that showed no malicious software or incorrect counting equipment and that none of the computers or equipment were connected to the internet. Previous reviews and a hand recount of a sample of ballots also found no issues.

The state Senate wants its own forensic audit. The Senate fell one vote short of finding the five-member board in contempt earlier this month.

The county Board of Supervisors previously turned over reams of data but balked at handing over the actual ballots or the tabulation machines, saying the ballots were by law secret and the machines would be compromised.

Fann said she now will move forward with a full forensic audit, working from the audits the county just completed. That effort was incomplete, she said, and only looked at vote counting machines and software.

“This will certainly give us the opportunity to get a more independent forensic auditor in there to verify that work,” she said. “And then do the rest of the audit, which actually verifies the ballots and more sampling of the signatures.”

Fann said she wants to make a deeper diver into questions Republicans have raised about the state’s mail-in ballot system. Arizonans have embraced mail voting, and more than 80% of voters cast ballots early by mail or in-person.

“I really want to get questions answered about how many mail ballots are going our to people who are no longer living, or are no longer living in Arizona, or going to wrong addresses, and what we can do to fix those problems,” Fann said.

Democratic Sen. Martin Quezada said any new audits won’t persuade Republicans who argue without evidence that Trump lost the election because of fraud.

“If anything this is going to further rile up a base of people who want to believe that this election was stolen,” Quezada said. “If this was going to answer questions, I think any of the previous multiple audits that have already been done would have answered those questions.”

Thomason lamented that the courts had become embroiled in a political fight, calling the “highly bitter dispute” between “dedicated public servants” in two branches of government “regrettable” and noting he had urged them to reach an agreement outside of court.

“They apparently have not done so. Our governmental officials should not be spending valuable resources on lawyers, ‘fighting’ with another branch of government over what materials can be provided to another branch of government under a subpoena,” Thomason wrote. “Rather, the citizens expect their governmental officials to work cooperatively for the common good. It is highly unfortunate that that has not happened here. When government officials resort to ‘name calling’ and threats, something has gone terribly wrong.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Chandler innovation fair 2024 East Valley...

Serena O'Sullivan

Chandler Innovation Fair to celebrate innovation with hundreds of hands-on science exhibits

The yearly Chandler Innovation Fair, which celebrates innovators and scientists of all ages in the East Valley, will return on Saturday.

1 hour ago

One Handsome Bastard photo...

Serena O'Sullivan

Old Town Scottsdale’s 1st microdistillery opens in former Blue Clover Distillery space

The space previously occupied by Blue Clover Distillery is now known as One Handsome Bastard. The name honors the late Brad Ritchie.

1 hour ago

gavel photo threatening federal...

Serena O'Sullivan

Arizona man sentenced to over 7 years for trying to traffic methamphetamine

A federal judge in Arizona sentenced a Tucson man to over seven years in prison for drug trafficking, officials announced on Wednesday.

2 hours ago

The Arizona National Guard wants help in creating its new design for its specialty license plate. (...

KTAR.com

Arizona National Guard holding contest to design license plate

The Arizona National Guard has opened a contest to let the public design its specialty license plate.

2 hours ago

Mesa homicide suspect arrested in connection to Feb. 4 murder...

KTAR.com

Mesa police arrest man accused of fatally stabbing a victim in his apartment

A Mesa homicide suspect has been arrested, police announced on Wednesday. Mario Ortiz Jr. allegedly killed a 29-year-old man on Feb. 4.

10 hours ago

Mesa homicide suspect arrested in connection to Feb. 4 murder...

Sponsored Content by

A Mesa homicide suspect has been arrested, police announced on Wednesday. Mario Ortiz Jr. allegedly killed a 29-year-old man on Feb. 4.

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

...

Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

...

Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Judge rules Arizona Senate can get access to 2.1 million ballots